Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: April 7: #ReadingWithoutWalls, #AutismAwareness, #GrowthMindset + More

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #play, #poetry, #RaisingReaders, #ReadingWithoutWalls, #STEM, autism, economic diversity, games, homework, National Poetry Month, publishing, reading, screens, teaching, and translation. 

Book Lists

TheWildRobot10 Books to Inspire Inventors, Engineers, Tinkerers + Those Who Wish We Were! by 

50+ about Mixed Race Families now updated to 70+ books via


 Economics, Money + Class in 2017 Today — | Including poverty in

Events + Programs

ReadingWithoutWallsTake the Challenge this April + add to your

Here’s How You Make a Book Spine Poem with Your Students/Patrons —

World Week and Autism Acceptance/Awareness Month - resources + w/ mini-reviews  

Growing Bookworms

BravoEngle How Margarita Engle's books helped a mother + daughter to re-engage in discussion over books

How to Get Your Kids to Read a higher ratio of good stuff vs. "junk books" from + more 

How to Make Fun: 25 Ideas Kids Will Love | Jean Reagan etc.

Growth Mindset

Four Moves That Promote A In All |

Is Not Enough | on other character-based skills should help build

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

WizardOfOz"the thing about as a child. You don’t just read a book: you enter it."

Even More Outlandish: Further Thoughts (vs her piece) on the Role of Translation +  


Lamenting a 2nd grade classroom "party" to which kids could bring tablets but not toys by

Schools and Libraries

RaisingKidsWhoReadNew studies show the cost of student laptop use for notetaking in lecture classes -

It Takes a Suburb: Lexington MA (where I went to HS) Struggles to Ease Stress | Kyle Spencer

We should not assume how parents will react to changes like eliminating says  

Bookmobiles and Beyond: new services on wheels serve newborns through teens |


The Big List of Board Games that Inspire Mathematical Thinking, sorted by age range, from  

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue: Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter

Book: Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue
Author: Calista Brill
Illustrator: Tad Carpenter
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7

TugboatBillTugboat Bill and the River Rescue by Calista Brill and Tad Carpenter is about a small tugboat named Bill and a rather beat-up barge named Mabel who work in the Hudson River. Bill and Mabel are friends, but they are essentially bullied by larger, newer ships. When the opportunity comes to rescue a kitten, however, it's the small, beat-up boats who really shine. 

Calista Brill's writing is read-aloud friendly, with short sentences but strong vocabulary words. Like this:

"The river is home to other ships, too.
They are big
     and graceful.
They are fit
     and prime.
They are haughty
     and vain
almost all of the time.

(They think they are so great.)"


squares her shoulders
braces her hull
and pretends she doesn't hear.

But she does.
And so does Bill."

She uses sound effects, too, like "BLURB!" and "KERPLUNK". 

Tad Carpenter's illustrations are bright and friendly, with a graphic design feel. Both Bill and Mabel are engaging and distinctive, while the mean big boats are delightfully nasty. The crowd on the shore is multicultural, if you count blue and green people mixed in with the yellow ones (which I do). 

My only complain about Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue is that the ending, in which the big boats are regretful and hordes of people cheer for Bill and Mabel, is a bit ... easy. Sure, any reader will expect that the nice Mabel and Bill will do the right thing, and will be glad that they get a happy ending. But just because one gets public credit for doing the right thing doesn't mean that one's bullies will immediately come around. Still, just because my adult sensibilities had a hard time accepting this doesn't mean that it's not going to please preschoolers. And I do like that this is a subtle portrayal of bullying, masked as it is by the personification of the boats. And I think it's good to show kids characters who don't hesitate or waffle, but just go ahead and do the right thing without even thinking about it. 

Between the fun of the word choices and sound effects, the accessibility of the pictures, and the inherent coolness of tugboats, I think that young listeners will be captivated by Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue. It would make a great library read-aloud for preschoolers, and is a must for any kid who is obsessed with boats and/or rescues. Recommended!

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Mrs. White Rabbit: Gilles Bachelet

Book: Mrs. White Rabbit
Author: Gilles Bachelet
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-10

MrsWhiteRabbitMrs. White Rabbit by Gilles Bachelet is the picture book diary of the decidedly grumpy wife of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Mrs. White Rabbit shares her concerns about her children (including a daughter who wants to be a supermodel), unwanted visitors, neighborhood gossip, and a husband who does not pay her enough attention. 

This is definitely a picture book for older children, with dense text and relatively mature themes. I didn't want to explain to my six-year-old daughter why someone wanting to be a supermodel would spend all of her time on a scale and essentially stop eating, for example. I feel like she has plenty of time to learn about such body image issues as she gets older. There's also a toddler who "seems to be quite advanced for his age" and is seen peeking under the skirts of a pretty doll. Sigh. And, of course, a major theme is the relationship between an unappreciated wife and her neglectful husband, hardly a preschool-appropriate concept. 

There is certainly humor to the book, as when the aforementioned toddler wants to wear a bunny costume for Halloween. As an adult and a mother, I could relate to certain aspects of Mrs. White Rabbit's sardonic attitude. And, of course, there are Alice in Wonderland references, including an invisible cat from Cheshire that the family adopts, and a young girl who turns up who has "an unpleasant tendency to change size at the drop of a hat." I think that Mrs. White Rabbit would be wasted on readers lacking at least some familiarity with Alice in Wonderland. My six year old, who has seen the Disney animated movie once, and never read the book, recognized enough detail to find this book interesting. 

Bachelet's illustrations are full of whimsical details that harken to traditional stories but add a modern edge, such as Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall all in one piece holding what looks like a beer bottle. Mrs. White Rabbit is shown shell-shocked and frequently angry, but she does get a moment of happiness in the end. My daughter and I were both a bit grossed out, though, when the impish twins are shown holding and playing with rabbit poop because they are "interested in everything" and able to "have fun with almost anything."

Mrs. White Rabbit is a creative and unusual picture book that demonstrates a mature sense of humor and adds hitherto unknown depth to the character of Alice in Wonderland's white rabbit. While I will admit that this book isn't quite my own personal cup of tea, my six year old found it hilarious and interesting. And I think that fans of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will be quite pleased to visit the White Rabbit's home though this book. 

Publisher:Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 
Publication Date: February 6, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Literacy Milestone: Making Inferences

LiteracyMilestoneAThe other day I read a post by Daniel Willingham about the importance of teaching kids to make inferences when they read. Making inferences is something I'm quite experienced at myself (to a fault, and to the tune of many a ruined surprise ending of book or movie). It so happened that a family read aloud session later that day suggested that my daughter is doing just fine in developing this critical reading skill. 

I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to my husband and daughter, all of us snuggled together in her bed. We finished Chapter 10, and I pointed out that the title of the next chapter was The Firebolt. My daughter sat up and clapped her hands and said: "Oh! I wonder who is going to give Harry the Firebolt." My husband said something like: "How do you know that's what the title means?" and she scoffed. "Daddy! Of course that's what it means." And she proceeded to think about who would be most likely to give Harry a Firebolt. 

Here she was drawing an inference from two incidents earlier in the book. The first was when Harry saw and fell in love with the new Firebolt brooms, but decided that he could not justify buying one. The second was when Harry's trusty Nimbus 2000 was destroyed in a conflict. Putting these two things together with a chapter titled The Firebolt, my daughter had no doubt whatsoever. And, of course, she was correct (though her guesses about who might have delivered the Firebolt were understandably incorrect). 

I thought: "Yes, that's my girl." 

Thinking about this more, I do think that we as adults can draw a couple of inferences from this incident. The first is that if you read frequently to a child, and you model making inferences yourself along the way, your child may very well pick up this skill naturally, through observation.

The second is just a reminder that the benefits of reading aloud to your children are considerable. We only read a few pages a day of Harry Potter (usually in the mornings, to avoid any scary dreams). This means that my daughter has to hold details in her head over an extended period. But we stop frequently and talk about the book, and we talk about the book at other times too. She's learning about drawing inferences. She's learning about plot and characterization. She is certainly expanding her vocabulary. And the beauty of it all is that we are having an amazing time. 

One more tiny incident from the same night. As my daughter requested (demanded?) a family reading session of Harry Potter, I mildly pointed out: "Some families don't read together, you know." She stopped in her tracks and shouted: "WHAT!!!??? WHAT???!!" The mere idea was shocking. It was kind of funny. But as I look at the many benefits that my daughter has accrued from being read to, and the enjoyment that my husband and I have had from the process, I wish I could whisper in the ears of those families to encourage them give it a try. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 31: Family #Reading, Book Nerds, and #OutdoorLearning

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics in this relatively brief edition include #BookLists, #ReadingAloud, #STEM, college, early childhood education, learning to read, love of books, parenting, play, raising readers, reading, reading choice, and teaching.

Book Lists

RosieProjectBook5 Fantastic Books for Young Scientists, | Must have Project Book for my daughter

Best Books to Inspire Your Sports-Obsessed Kids to Read, a

Favorite for Girls Ages 6 and Up, from | Good ideas here for my near 7 y.o.

Events + Programs

Engaging Dads in Early Childhood Ed Programs: getting past obstacles + into the


Drawing, & Seeing the World Differently by

Growing Bookworms

BlackbirdPondA reminder from life-long avid reader that adults should let kids read for enjoyment

The Challenge of Teaching College Kids Who Hate (after being turned off in HS)

What happens when you teach children to make inferences while reading?

The Joy of as a family - video chat from + w/ book recommendations

What Kids Learn About Books from Watching Your Example | Modeling the joy of Edward Viljoen

Despite a couple of tech changes, “Unlucky Arithmetic: Thirteen Ways to Raise a Nonreader” still relevant


Updated: The Complete Listing of All Public Children’s Literature Statues in the United States

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

HarryPotterIllustratedLove this! Confessions of a Book Nerd via |"I use WAY too many Harry Potter references"

9 Ways to Spread Through Books + from | Leave a book for someone, + more

Stories can change our brains + sharing stories w/ kids builds bonds - Hilary Hawkes

Play + Movement

OutdoorClassroomDayBelieve in the power of + ? Sign up for May 18 via

An Unexpected Consequence for Kids Who Sit Too Much: Lack of body + spatial awareness

Schools and Libraries

MathematicalMindsetsThe Way We Teach (w/ emphasis on speed vs. thinking) Is Holding Women Back says

Yes! says job is not to shape the opinions of , but to offer them a chance to create opinions

Good stuff here: On the Need for Getting Rid of and how manages her classes without it

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

The Most Frightening Story Ever Told: Philip Kerr

Book: The Most Frightening Story Ever Told
Author: Philip Kerr
Pages: 320
Age Range: 8-12

MostFrighteningStoryThe Most Frightening Story Ever Told is a middle grade novel by Philip Kerr about a boy named Billy Shivers. Billy starts spending time in a small-town bookstore called The Haunted House of Books. Taken under the wing of the store's quirky owner, Mr. Rapscallion, Billy learns about the store, goes on a trip, and helps to run a contest. The contest involves five children (selected by lottery)  who will listen to "the scariest story ever told." The winner will be the one who doesn't run screaming from the store. 

Here are a few thoughts: 

  • Isn't this a great title? It's not that this book is all that scary, but it's a title to totally hook young readers. My six year old wanted to read it, though it was definitely a bit advanced for her. 
  • The homages to Roald Dahl are everywhere in The Most Frightening Story Ever Told, from the contest to the group of terrible children who are selected to the inclusion of poems. Mr. Rapscallion bears more than a passing resemblance to Willy Wonka, though he has a bit more backstory (a slightly estranged daughter and even an eventual love interest). 
  • There are lots of other references to books and movies (bringing the book Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein to mind). These references range from Alfred Hitchcock to Stephen King to Edgar Allen Poe to It's a Wonderful Life (and doubtless many others). Many of these references will be over the heads of 10-year-old readers, making this an excellent choice for a family read-aloud (and a book that adult gatekeepers will enjoy. 
  • Like both Grabenstein and Dahl, Kerr repeatedly laments (to an exaggerated degree) the fact that people don't read books as much as they used to, due to other distractions. Librarians are particularly likely to enjoy this one. 
  • The plotting of The Most Frightening Story Ever Told is a bit disjointed, with the inclusion of several stories-within-the-story. It takes quite a while for Kerr to get to the contest itself. It took me a fair bit of time to get through the book, but I did get hooked and finish quickly once the contest kicked off.
  • What kept me reading was that from the very first page, I liked Billy's voice. I flagged about a dozen passages in the first quarter of the book and then stopped marking them because I knew that I couldn't quote them all anyway. 
  • There's a twist at the end that I did see coming from early on, but Kerr did a good job of keeping me from being 100% sure about it throughout the book. Wondering about this also helped keep me hooked on the story. 

Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for Billy and Mr. Rapscallion's voices:

"Now, some shop doors have a little bell that rings when you open them. The Haunted House of Books was a shop that had something very different--a hollow, wicked laugh, like something from an old horror movie. Not only that, but when you walked in the doorway, you stepped onto an old subway grating and a current of cold air came gusting up from below the floor. All of this was meant to give someone entering the bookshop a bit of a fright. And Billy was no exception. He yelled out loud and then he chuckled as he saw the funny side of what had happened." (Page 7)


"They're too busy with their nerdy electronic games and their stupid televisions and their annoying cell phones and their geeky computers to think of reading books," said Mr. Rapscallion. "It makes you wonder why people even bother to teach reading in schools." Mr. Rapscallion sighed loudly. "It makes me worry for the future of the human race. Always supposing that I do actually care about something like that." (Page 25)

There's also a chapter in which Mr. Rapscallion tells a scary story. Under the chapter title is: "Note: This chapter should be read out loud to your little brother or your small sister, immediately before bedtime."

So you see, it's right up my alley, with literary references and sarcastic humor. And scary books and more scary books. 

The Most Frightening Story Ever Told is not so frightening that it will disturb middle grade readers, but it does have some scary moments. It is a book that will please Dahl fans, book fans, and anyone who loves the trappings of spooky stories (especially haunted houses). The vocabulary is somewhat advanced, and there is a British feel to the story, making this a book that might suit middle schoolers more than elementary school kids. I'm certain that it's a book that adult fans of children's literature will find engaging, as I did. Recommended for home and library purchase!

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 29: #PictureBook Reviews, Reading Print Books, and Encouraging Readers

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and middle grade) and one post about the advantages of reading physical books with kids. I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one with more detailed quotes and responses to some joy of learning-related articles, all centered around growing bookworms. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read three adult novels, and most of an adult nonfiction title. I read/listened to: 

  • Jacqueline Winspear: In This Grave Hour. Harper. Adult Mystery. Completed March 21, 2017, on MP3. This is the latest installment in the fabulous Maisie Dobbs series. England officially enters World War II, with various consequences. 
  • Charlaine Harris: Poppy Done to Death (Aurora Teagarden, No. 8). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed March 25, 2017, on MP3. This is a much lighter series, but I enjoy it. 
  • D.E. Stevenson: The Tall Stranger. HarperCollins. Adult Fiction. Completed March 25, 2017. This was a first read for me of this D.E. Stevenson title. Charlotte from Charlotte's Library was kind enough to loan it to me, long-distance.

PrisonerOfAzkabanI'm currently listening to Vicious Circle by C. J. Box (the latest Joe Pickett novel) and reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I'm still reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling to my daughter. She returned from a weekend away on Sunday and the very first thing she asked me was to read Harry Potter to her. She continues to read more and more on her own, too, although she tends to start books without finishing them. She is currently reading The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, and has pronounced the Piper Green and the Fairy Tree books by Ellen Potter and Qin Leng next on her list. But this could change any time. You can find her 2017 reading list here

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Charlotte and the Rock: Stephen W. Martin & Samantha Cotterill

Book: Charlotte and the Rock
Author: Stephen W. Martin
Illustrator: Samantha Cotterill
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-6

CharlotteAndTheRockCharlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin and Samantha Cotterill is about a girl who wants a pet, but instead is given a large rock. Charlotte tries to make the best of her unusual pet, celebrating the positives (hypoallergenic, good listener), but she can't help noticing that the rock is not good at eating her leftover broccoli from the table. Nor is the rock at all helpful in getting her out of trouble in school. ("You said WHAT ate your homework?") Charlotte adapts, but she never stops wishing that her pet could offer her more affection. A surprise twist at the end delighted me, and is sure to please young readers. 

I quite liked Charlotte and the Rock. Though I've read other stories about inanimate pets (My Pet Book by Bob Staake, Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly), something in the matter-of-fact tone of Charlotte and the Rock really worked for me. Like this (over two page spreads):

"But as with any pet, some things proved difficult.

Walks were not fun.

Really not fun."

Here we first see a red-cheeked Charlotte gritting her teeth, struggling to pull the rock (wearing a knitted hat) up a hill with a leash. Then (the really not fun part) she is flying down the hill behind the rock, as a squirrel jumps out of the way and people stare from inside shop windows.

Charlotte is adorable, with freckled cheeks, round glasses, and a plausible range of expressions. You can't help but feel for her when she is playing with her rock in the bath (using it to model a deserted island), wistfully wishing that the rock "could love her back." Her joy at the end of the book is a true pleasure to behold. 

Charlotte and the Rock is my favorite picture book of the year so far. Although it may be targeted a bit more towards preschoolers than to elementary school kids, I eagerly look forward to sharing it with my daughter. I'm sure she will love Charlotte (and the rock) as much as I do. Highly recommended!

Publisher: Dial Books  (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: March 24: #KidLit Mirrors, Transitioning to Chapter Books + Knitting

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #DiverseBooks, #GrowingBookworms, #GrowthMindset, #STEM, #SummerReading, autism spectrum, baseball, chapter books, economic diversity, Edgar Awards, Eric Carle, knitting, librarians, literacy programs, new readers, Readergirlz, Scholastic, schools, Sesame Street, teaching, and Women's History Month.

Book Lists + Awards

QueenOfTheDiamondIt's almost #baseball season! Yay! @momandkiddo shares Best Children's #PictureBooks about Baseball #BookList

2017 #AnnaDewdney #ReadTogether Award Finalists Announced | 5 excellent #PictureBooks  @PublishersWkly @penguinkids

In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth 20 #PictureBook biographies about awesome women! from @literacious  #BookList

#EasyReader List for the 2017 #SummerReading Program, focus on Architecture, Building + Construction  @mrskatiefitz 

Chapter Book List focused on Architecture, Building + Construction for 2017 #SummerReading from @mrskatiefitz  [See also middle grade list here:]

2017 Edgar Award Nominees in juvenile + #YA categories from @tashrow    #mysteries #kidlit


When Our #Reading Lives Help Us Understand Our Life Situations | #kidlit mirrors for financial stress  @nerdybookclub

WalkWithMeWe need #kidlit mirrors reflecting class issues: @SevenImp shares 2 #PictureBooks w/ economic difficulty  @FuseEight

This is interesting. @sesamestreet introduces first new TV muppet in 10 years: Julia, who has #autism @npr_ed

Judging Books by Their Covers, looking for brown people, post by Laura Reiko Simeon @LEEandLOW via @CynLeitichSmith

This made me sad: author @Barbaradee2 asked by teachers not to talk about her #lgbt -friendly book  @nerdybookclub

Events + Programs

VeryHungryCaterpillarToday is The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day | @greenbeanreads has the scoop  #VHCday @penguinkids  #kidlit 

Educators: @Scholastic #SummerReading Challenge is a chance to win 500 books for your #school to encourage #reading 

New @scbwi #literacy initiative Books For Readers gets books into hands of kids + teens  @leewind @CynLeitichSmith

A toast to the end of @readergirlz Not so needed now to connect teen girls + authors but still loved  @lorieanngrover

Book drive for elementary school of robotics team champs told to "go back to Mexico" via @haleshannon  #STEM #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

TheWildRobotCrossing #Literacy Thresholds: Tips for When Kids Are “Stuck” #Reading the Same Things — Julie Hakim Azzam @HornBook 

#Road2Reading Challenge: Navigating Chapter Books: What #Readers Need to Know @alybee930  w/ #BookList

Chapter book Challenges: @CarrieGelson shares roadblocks + needed skills to help kids make the leap to chapter books

Toy “Sleepovers” at the #Library Boost Kids’ #Reading Skills, Says New Study | Linda Rodgers @sljournal

Growth Mindset

AWrinkleInTimeYoung Adult (+ middle grade) Novels That Model a #GrowthMindset | @edutopia via  @tashrow  #YA #AWrinkleInTime 

Schools and Libraries

Canadian #teacher wins $1M #GlobalTeachingPrize for work in Inuit community in northern Quebec  @CBCRadioCanada

If goal is to increase #reading scores, cutting #librarians + media specialists are steps in the wrong direction

Three Rules for a Fabulous #SummerReading Program from a #MiddleSchool teacher #librarian @sljournal  | Offer choice

ChildDevelopmentAsking children to accomplish tasks (e.g. writing) before they’re developmentally ready leads to failure! @raepica1

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class - movement breaks help attitude + #learning  Donna De La Cruz @nytimes

Assigned #Reading often Fails where #ChoiceReading Soars | @3TeachersTalk on problems w/ whole-class novels


Growing movement uses knitting + crocheting to teach #mathematical thought + interest girls in #STEM  @brightreads

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Horizon: Scott Westerfeld

Book: Horizon
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 256
Age Range: 9-12

HorizonHorizon is the first of a new seven-book series from Scholastic. Scott Westerfeld wrote this one, and outlined all seven of the books, but other authors will be writing the remaining books (starting with Jennifer Nielsen writing Book 2). You can read Scott Westerfeld's announcement about the series here. Horizon is middle grade science fiction, intriguing enough that I certainly think that middle schoolers will also want to take a look. I read it in two quick sittings, finding it to be like the television series Lost, but aimed at kids. 

Eight kids are the only survivors of a plane crash. Although their flight was passing over the arctic, they find themselves in a jungle full of strange animals and phenomena. Four of the kids are engineers from Brooklyn, a robotics team on their way to a contest in Japan. After the crash they meet up with two young Japanese sisters returning home from boarding school, a Japanese-American teen also returning home, and a rather bossy Alpha male named Caleb. They have to learn to work together, while focusing on both basic survival and trying to understand what's happened. Their survival is clearly not random - they were somehow chosen by an electrical force that rejected everyone else on the plane. 

Things I enjoyed about Horizon:

  • The kids' application of engineering principles to understand things. They also find a device that disrupts basic physical principles, like gravity. This is a book that puts the science in science fiction, something particularly welcome (as far as I'm concerned) in a book for middle grade audiences. 
  • The multicultural cast. The kids from Brooklyn appear to include Hispanic and African American backgrounds. The Japanese girls don't even speak English, and end up teaching the American kids a few Japanese words along the way. 
  • The complex and intriguing setting. There are sentient vines, birds that attack humans, and other odd phenomena. 
  • The pacing of the story. Westerfeld keeps the kids in crisis, frequently separated, and often in peril. Middle grade readers will keep turning the pages to understand what happens next. 

My main quibble about the book as it stands was that I thought that the characterization could have been a bit deeper. I had trouble keeping defining characteristics of some of the characters in my head. But perhaps this is a deliberate way to allow more scope to the future authors of the series. There's definitely a videogame/movie feel to the book - it's clearly not meant to be a character study. [There's some sort of online game, apparently, but I haven't checked that out.]

As part of a seven-book series, Horizon naturally leaves pretty much everything unresolved. I think it will leave young readers eager to read the next book. I've personally not found in the past that series with different authors for different books tend to hold up for me, but I am interested to at least check out the second book. [See also Ms. Yingling's take on Horizon, she is weary of the 7 book series.]  

Science and survival, with a multicultural slant, aimed at middle grade readers. Libraries, at least those not put off by a longer series, will definitely want to give Horizon a look. Recommended for science fiction (and Lost) fans. 

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Four Recent Articles About Growing Bookworms: #eReading, Pleasure Reading + #ReadingAloud

JoyOFLearningLogoRecently, I've run across a number of articles that all touch on aspects of growing young bookworms. The first is about how kids prefer to read print books, and how research has shown that kids who have access to electronic devices tend to read less (even if the devices have books on them). The second article is a list of ten tips for parents to encourage kids to enjoy reading, written by a youth service librarian. The third is about how and why teachers should read aloud to older students, and the fourth is also aimed at teachers, discouraging the grading of students' independent reading. Each of these articles spoke to me on one level or another, and I hope that you find them useful. 

Research suggests providing kids w/ #eReading devices can inhibit their #reading - response + tips @ConversationUS

Margaret Kristin Merga and Saiyidi Mat Roni: "In a study of children in Year 4 and 6, those who had regular access to devices with eReading capability (such as Kindles, iPads and mobile phones) did not tend to use their devices for reading - and this was the case even when they were daily book readers.

Research also found that the more devices a child had access to, the less they read in general.

It suggests that providing children with eReading devices can actually inhibit their reading, and that paper books are often still preferred by young people."

Me: This post is a response to / recap of a recently published study. In addition to discussing the reasons for the results quoted above, it also includes tips for encouraging children to read. The primary conclusions, that kids prefer to read print books, and that access to devices is tied to less reading by kids, matches with my own intuition, and with what I've observed in my daughter. For instance, we have a family rule that she's not allowed to use her tablet in the car if the drive is less than 30 minutes. So, she reads. But if I would let her, she would use the tablet nearly every time.

As for print books, I've just always felt that those would be better for her, and I've never really dabbled in eBooks for her. She likes to see the pictures, and to have a sense of how much of the book is left. She likes to figure out what percentage of the book she has completed (and I would MUCH rather have her figure this out than spot it in the footer on a Kindle). She's also been passing books back and forth with a close friend, something that would be much more difficult for them in digital format. 

CaptainUnderpantsWell-done: Top 10 Tips for Parents of Kids Who HATE to Read | "Pleasure reading should be just that" + don't judge

Meredith Hoyer: "3. Forget about progress. In schools, the focus is on progress and growth, as it should be. When you come to the public library, you will notice that we don’t level our books, and that stems from the philosophy of public libraries being a place of informal learning. “My child is at an M level and he needs to be reading P level books but he hates to read and won’t read anything I give him,” a parent might say. It is natural for parents to want to support progress. However, once reading becomes a battle in the home, our best advice is to take a breath, forget about reading levels, and gently guide the child back to a point where reading is comfortable, relaxed and pleasant again. Your child’s teacher will focus on development and progress. Pleasure reading should be just that: pleasurable."

Me: I see a lot of these tip-based posts for encouraging reading, and I share them often. But I thought that this one, written by a youth services librarian, was particularly good. The above quotation gives a nice flavor of Meredith Hoyer's balanced, parent-focused approach. I also especially liked tip 4, about withholding judgement, ending with "If your child chooses comic books, joke books, or Captain Underpants, take the long view and let him/her have fun." 

I feel strongly that my job as a parent who wants to raise a child who enjoys reading is to do whatever I can to make reading enjoyable. Meredith Hoyer and I are clearly on the same page about the ways to do that. 

RivetingReadAloudsCoverRiveting Read Alouds (How and Why to #ReadAloud in classroom with Older Students) | @Scholastic 

Janet Allen: "Television shows vie for the best time slots during prime time; reading aloud is prime time in the classroom because you have used the time to get students engaged. While many factors influence whether teachers choose to read aloud with adolescents, the benefits of establishing reading aloud as an important part of your literacy instruction are well-known. Let’s talk about just a few of the benefits my students and I discovered as we make a case for reading aloud.

Enjoyment: When reading a well-chosen text as a read aloud, you provide readers with a risk-free opportunity to experience the "charm, magic, impact and appeal" (Mooney, 1988) of language and story. It helps them see that text has meaning, especially because their comprehension can often be greater during read-aloud time than when they try to decode text on their own. This results in students being motivated to read more."

Me: I like that this article, on the Scholastic education blog, is specifically focused on reading aloud to older kids, and on the reasons that teachers should read aloud. In addition to the reasons (the first of several is quoted above), Janet Allen offers teachers tips for getting started. The article concludes with a pitch for the author's new book, Riveting Read Alouds for Middle School (with Patrick Daley, published by Scholastic). The book includes "35 engaging read-aloud selections for older students: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, humor writing and more."

While I follow a number of blogging teachers who read aloud to older students, I suspect that this is relatively rare in practice. I think it would be great if this book helped inspire other teachers to give it a try. 

PassionateLearnersPlease, YES! Can We Please Stop Grading Independent Reading? asks @pernilleripp  #RaisingReaders

Pernille Ripp: "So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read.  We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits.  Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story.  Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders."

Me: I spoke the other night to a young man who loved to read as a child, but railed against the elementary and middle school AR program. He said that it had kept him from reading the books that he wanted, because either they weren't part of the program, or they weren't at the approved level for him. His arguments were against how the program as implemented affected him as an advanced reader. But me, I was just wondering why we need to be measuring the reading of kids who love books at all. When I was in elementary school I read constantly, with some guidance from teachers and the school librarian. But even the public library's summer reading programs turned me off, because I wanted to just read, not track what I was reading.

Now, I get that not all kids are avid readers, and that there may be tracking programs that help in some cases. And I get that Pernille Ripp's more individualized assessment approach is probably more time-consuming. But still ... I was pleased to see a teacher publicly calling for not grading independent reading. Teachers can find more information on nurturing readers in the classroom in Pernille's book, Passionate Learners.

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 

Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner: Tadgh Bentley

Book: Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner
Author: Tadgh Bentley
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

SamsonPiranhaSamson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner by Tadgh Bentley is about a "rather adventurous" piranha who likes to try new things. Most of all, Samson dreams of "eating fine food at the fanciest restaurants". Of course, fearsome piranhas are not generally welcome at fancy restaurants. Samson, however, is determined to give it a try. Only after a series of disguises fail, however, does Samson happen upon a real solution to his problem. 

Tadgh Bentley fills Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner with a lush vocabulary and hints of humor, together with read-aloud-friendly enthusiasm. Like this:

"His friends were right. He couldn't get into a restaurant looking like a piranha.

But maybe he COULD get in looking like something else. He would need a disguise!

Samson checked his moustache and fluffed his eyebrows. He could almost taste the luscious lily linguine and the sizzling seaweed sausages!

"Pardon me, but I believe you have a reservation for Samson P. Rana?""

Get it? P. Rana? Five years olds will like it. I liked the alliteration in "luscious lily linguine and the sizzling seaweed sausages". I also enjoyed expostulations like "SCALEY NEPTUNE'S CRABCAKES!" on the part of the restaurant staff members. 

Bentley's illustrations use deep underwater tones, blues and greens tinged with gray, dramatized with huge red letters when the various restaurant people shriek: "PIRANHA!". There are some nice details, too. I particularly enjoyed scenes showing Samson's boring friends, sitting around an underwater living room, one of them actually resident inside of an old television set. Samson, with his huge teeth, is not exactly an attractive creature, but his expressions do evoke sympathy, and his disguises are funny and cute.

I found the resolution of Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner to be a bit easy, but the final scene is humorous and apt. My daughter found this book hilarious, and will surely want to read it again. Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner takes an initially unsympathetic main character (who likes piranhas?) and makes readers root for him. It has a nice mix of humor and rich, alliterative vocabulary, making it a good recommendation for storytime read-aloud. This is a fun book that I'm happy to have read, and to recommend. 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (@HarperChildrens
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).